What’s Your Return On Sustainability?

The sustainability scorecard’s static method of reporting leaves much to be desired from a credibility standpoint.

Good business and environmental stewardship go hand in hand, with sustainability increasingly being elevated to an “urgent” opportunity that company leaders simply cannot afford to ignore. Because technology is changing the way companies integrate sustainability into their business strategies, the tool with which progress in this area has traditionally been measured—the sustainability scorecard—may no longer be the right one for the job. 

In general, scorecards provide a qualitative view of performance, evaluating the level of commitment in terms of broad categories like company culture and engagement, corporate vision, and strategy planning. Legacy scorecards only measure progress at a specific point in time. That limits the notion of success to the evaluation of a single moment, and leaves little room for characterizing and analyzing a company’s ongoing efforts in a useful way. This traditional approach to sustainability reporting does little to provide the support needed by investors and consumers to trust that leaders’ intentions are, in fact, coming to fruition. Both this lack of transparency and the sustainability scorecard’s static method of reporting leave much to be desired from a credibility standpoint.

The New Scorecard: The Sustainability Process Blueprint

The sustainability process blueprint employs a dynamic approach, focusing on key metrics from which remotely monitored data is measured and cataloged in a format that provides insights, as well as the ability to benchmark progress toward goals and objectives and comparisons to peers. Sensor data and analytics provide the framework to offer visual understanding, context, and perspective of progress toward sustainability.

This blueprint approach answers three key questions about your commitment to sustainability: 1) Do you have a plan, or blueprint, for improving your sustainability over time? 2) Are your sustainability efforts actually having an impact? 3) How are you performing compared to other companies in your industry?

This approach is possible using the Internet of Things (IoT). IoT sensors allow you to measure almost every aspect of your business environment, facility and operations around the clock, from energy usage to water and air quality to leakage detection and more. The granular data you collect—and that your IoT analytics platform helps you analyze—leads to better sustainability reporting for several reasons:

1. It offers a more dynamic approach to sustainability than traditional scorecards. Forget about “point in time” assessments. Now you have actual data that can be examined overtime. This data acts as a feedback mechanism, allowing you to actually “see” the impact of your efforts.

2. It offers more details than legacy scorecards. Instead of viewing sustainability from general, high-level perspectives, you can see it from the ground-up—how much energy even a single piece of equipment actually uses, for example, or the actual levels of volatile organic compounds present in your building’s air.

3. It allows you to perform data analysis for the purpose of devising smart sustainability strategies. Otherwise “invisible” building characteristics can be transformed into quantifiable data points that can be used in a statistical or analytical model for context. For instance, strategies can be implemented to directly address equipment using excess energy, or the root causes of air pollution.

4. It allows you to benchmark your company’s performance against others in your industry. Benchmarking can help you see if you’re moving in the right direction, and working on the right initiatives. It can also highlight specific areas for improvement going forward.

A process blueprint represents a new approach to sustainability reporting: One that produces a quantitative, metric-specific, dynamic process showing your progress toward the ultimate goal of sustainability and allows you to demonstrate to investors and consumers that your practices are having a positive impact on the environment.

Terrence DeFranco
Terrence DeFranco is CEO and President of Iota Communications, Inc., a wireless network carrier and software service company providing Internet of Things (IoT) solutions that optimize energy efficiency, sustainability and operations for commercial and industrial facilities.